Hunters -- temporarily deputized as park rangers -- will descend on portions of Grand Teton National Park this coming weekend with hopes of reducing the park's elk population.
This is not a new hunt. Back in 1950, when the park's enabling legislation passed Congress, the hunt was provided for -- when necessary -- to help manage Grand Teton's elk population. Park officials say the current elk population is above the goal of 11,000 animals, and so the hunt will begin on Saturday, October 10.
The elk reduction program utilizes Wyoming-licensed hunters that apply for and receive limited quota permits in hunt areas #75 and #79. Under the guidelines of the hunt, each hunter who lands a permit can take any elk he or she wishes. A map showing specific park locations open to hunters participating in the elk reduction program is available at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, Wyoming.
As a part of their special use permit—and as an added safety measure—each participant receives a strong, proactive message alerting them to the presence of grizzly bears throughout the authorized hunt zones, the park notes. In addition, hunters are required to carry bear pepper spray as a non-lethal deterrent for use during potential bear encounters. Hunters are also advised not to leave a carcass unattended and to remove their harvested elk as soon as possible.
Each fall, park rangers strictly monitor and patrol the elk reduction areas located within the park to ensure compliance with rules and regulations associated with this wildlife management program.
According to a park release, the recent illegal killing of grizzly bear #615 by a hunter in the Ditch Creek area east of Grand Teton makes a compelling case for hunters to carry bear spray and be alert while in the field. Scientific studies indicate that bear spray is more effective than bullets in defusing a potentially life-threatening, bear-human encounter; bear spray provides more effective protection for the hunter as well as the bear, states the release.
Based on his extensive research, bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero has concluded that the chances of a person incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly significantly increases when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used as a defense, said the park.
According to the park:
Bears and other scavengers throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) have learned to seek out and feed on gut piles and other hunter-related carrion during the fall season. This represents an important, highly nutritious food source to these animals, and it can create circumstances when bears aggressively defend carcasses and gut piles. Hunters and other park visitors should keep in mind that dozens of grizzlies use the park regularly and may be encountered anywhere and anytime. All necessary precautions for recreating in bear country need to be strictly followed, particularly those that apply to hunters.
The Conservation Strategy for Grizzly Bears in the GYE guides the continuing efforts by land and wildlife managers to conserve bear habitat and minimize bear-human conflicts through education and compliance with appropriate regulations, including those related to keeping a safe distance when viewing bears. To ensure a healthy grizzly bear population, every effort is made to educate park visitors, concessioner employees, local residents and hunters about living and recreating responsibly in bear country.
Rangers will continue to monitor park wildlife and educate all users about their personal responsibility for maintaining a safe environment—for their own health, as well as for the welfare of the animals.